Thursday, July 30, 2015

50,000 Membership Rewards points with the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

The latest credit card that I’ve been approved for is the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card.  The best current offer is an extremely easy to achieve 50,000 point sign up bonus after spending only $1,000 within the first 3 months.  This card earns 3x points on airfare and 2x points at restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations.  There are no foreign transaction fees with this card.

My first AMEX Charge Card
The Premier Rewards Gold card is a charge card, which means that you do not carry a balance.  All charges made within a statement period need to be paid off in full.  In my last few years of credit card bonus chasing, I have never applied for an AMEX Gold Card.  The snazzy look of this card always appealed to me, but I’ve never been a fan of the American Express Membership Rewards points program.  The point system always seemed too inconvenient and confusing to me.  Even the AMEX membership rewards points page is a mess of confusing information.  You cannot share points with anyone. 

With the availability of the recent 50,000 point sign up bonus, the AMEX MR point system is worth another look. 

How much are AMEX Membership Rewards points worth?
Some bloggers value AMEX MR points at 2 cents each point (or more), but it can be tricky to figure out the best way to redeem your points. 

Do not cash out your points
Cashing out your points provides a terrible return at 1 point = 0.6 cents.  That means 10,000 MR points can only be cashed out for $60.  Compare this to Chase Ultimate Rewards points, where cashing them out provides a return of 1 point = 1 cent.  10,000 UR points can be cashed out for $100. 

Gift cards
Membership Rewards points can also be redeemed towards gift cards, up to 1 point = 1 cent.  Gift cards include restaurants, car rental companies, hotels, and retail stores.  It’s a shame Target doesn’t seem to be on that list. 

Uber rides
MR points can be redeemed towards free Uber rides at 1 point = 1 cent. 

Online shopping
Transferring MR points to Amazon or Best Buy only yields 1 point = 0.7 cents. 

Airline and Hotel transfer partners
The most valuable redemption of AMEX MR points is going to be transferring the points to any of the 16 airlines or 4 hotel transfer partners.  To me it looks like 1:1 point transfers to the Singapore Airlines Krisflyer may be the best value.  My biggest flying fantasy is to be able to travel in the extremely luxurious Singapore Airlines Suites Class.   Transferring AMEX MR points to FlyingBlue or ANA looks very valuable as well.  AMEX sometimes offers transfer bonuses that give you better return for your point conversion. 
AMEX airline transfer partners
AMEX hotel transfer partners

$100 airline fee credit
An interesting benefit of the Premier Rewards Gold Card is that it offers a $100 airline fee credit per calendar year.  Go here to select a qualifying airline before making your purchase.  Since we are in the middle of 2015, this means that you can get two separate $100 airline fee credits before your first year of card membership (one for 2015, and one for 2016).  That’s $200 in free airline credits. 

Many people have been able to buy airline gift cards and get reimbursed for those purchases.  I’ll probably buy a Southwest or American Airlines gift card. I ended up buying a $100 Southwest Airlines gift card and received the $100 credit shortly afterwards.  Edit: New data seems to suggest that AMEX is no longer crediting airline gift card purchases. Credit works again.

The Premier Rewards Gold card has a hefty $195 annual fee.  The $100 airline fee credit helps to offset the annual fee somewhat.  The first year of card membership does not have any fees, so you can test out whether this card is worth keeping, downgrading, or cancelling next year.  Working with the AMEX Membership Rewards points system can be a hassle, but there is definitely a lot of value in a 50,000 point sign up bonus.  You can read more discussion about this card and offer on Slickdeals and Flyertalk.  See this reddit post on different ways to use AMEX MR points.

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